Furze Down School is a co-educational day community SEN school maintained by Buckinghamshire County Council and recognised as an ‘outstanding’ education provider by Ofsted in 2009.
In June 2011, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet announced that it would find sufficient funding to proceed with the full rebuild of Furze Down School.
As a ‘Specialist School for Interaction’, this investment acted as a catalyst to support next generation learning and equip young people with the complex skills needed for the 21st Century. It underpins Furze Down School’s aspirations for the future; places innovation & collaboration at the centre; and provides an inspirational learning environment for children, staff and the local community.
As part of the new build proposals, Buckinghamshire County Council wanted to expand the existing school from its current 120 place capacity to accommodate up to 148 pupils (including an eight place Nursery). This expansion, whilst relatively small in its scale, has been built into the proposals to meet the needs arising from increased housing and population growth in the County of Buckinghamshire.
Furze Down School is a forward thinking ‘Specialist School for Communication & Interaction’ and both the School & Buckinghamshire County Council believe that the new building & grounds will act as a catalyst to support next generation learning; equip young people with the complex skills needed for the 21st Century; and provide an inspirational learning environment within a hub of expertise.
The new Furze Down School connects sympathetically to its rural location, optimising curriculum opportunities and the benefits of the existing environment & grounds – for both the pupils and staff. It provides uplifting indoor & outdoor spaces, with logical connections & relationships to help support & nurture social interaction, healthy lifestyles and well being, so providing a calm & ordered environment for all and, in particular, those learners on the autistic spectrum and those with behavioural or organisational difficulties.
The new Furze Down School will also provide a social & economic hub for the local community through sport, leisure, the arts and local fundraising events.
Facilities include a 90 person Performing Arts & Media Suite (also available to the local Community); an Activities Hall & associated changing/toilets (also available to the Community); teaching & learning spaces for up to 148 all age pupils; Kitchen & Dining facilities; staff accommodation for 50 FTE staff; and extensive grass playing field with associated fenced hard play area (also available to the Community).
Buckinghamshire County Council also required the Project to achieve a bespoke BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating, which has been confirmed through the work of the Team guided by a Frankham BREEAM Assessor.
The Project has sought to engage with the Construction Industry from the outset and a design & development Project Team led by Leadbitter Construction was appointed in July 2012, after a competition at the beginning of RIBA Stage B through the ‘iESE’ Framework.
As a development within a visually self contained ‘inward looking’ site, the enhancement of existing landscape features with new was critically important – with simple landscape enhancements & interventions proposed wherever existing features were damaged, failing or lacking in the potential to fully develop. This was seen as a natural, respectful progression of an already mature landscape into a new phase of its life.
The New Furze Down School has been developed using architectural rigour to create a ‘striking building’, created within a ‘memorable place’ with its own simple, largely insular, green & landscaped world. The new building itself is a gently curving building with external façades of white coloured render; naturally coloured horizontal timber cladding; all glass ‘eyelash’ louvres; dark grey coloured metal framed clear glass windows/curtain walling & doors; and light grey coloured standing seam mono pitched roofs.
The new Furze Down School building utilises the existing topography to maximise the teaching & learning opportunities of the existing site whilst acknowledging the sensibility of all principal teaching taking place on one horizontal floor plate at Ground Floor level, so minimising access issues for the physically disabled.
The new School building is also organised on an ‘age progression’ principle – with children starting at the front of the Site at Nursery/Reception/Key Stages 1 & 2, to then progress through the ‘waist’ of the plan into Key Stages 3 & 4 and into the ‘tail’ where Post 16 and Specialist accommodation is planned. En route, is a multi use Performance Hall & Dining Wing; recording & digital studio working; an Activities Hall; and necessary toilet & storage facilities.